If you’re like many people, you want to know how to get guardianship of a child in California. Perhaps you want guardianship because the child’s parents are unable to care for them or have unfortunately passed away; maybe the child’s parents have been deported or are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction.
No matter why you’d like to get guardianship of a child in California, we may be able to help you.
How to Get Guardianship of a Child in California
For most people, the best way to get guardianship of a child in California involves talking to a family law attorney who understands the process. You have to file several papers with the court and follow a series of steps to get a court hearing – and the rules and forms can be pretty complicated.
Some of the forms you’ll need to complete include:
- Petition for Appointment of Guardian of the Person
- Guardianship Petition
- Notice of Hearing – Guardianship or Conservatorship
- Duties of Guardian
- Letters of Guardianship
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
- Confidential Guardian Screening Form
This isn’t even a complete list – there are a number of other documents you must fill out, as well as provide supporting paperwork that backs up the claims you make on these forms. (That’s why a lot of people work with a lawyer – it saves them the headache.)
If you’re asking the court for guardianship of a child in California, you’ll have to give notice to certain people with an interest in the case. Those people include relatives and agencies. In order to give notice, you have to follow the rules to a T. If you don’t, you may have to start the entire process over. The people you must notify include:
- The child’s parents or the person who has legal custody of the child now, as well as the child (if the child is 12 or older)
- The child’s grandparents, brothers and sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters
- The county’s human services or social services department
- The California Department of Social Services (but only if you’re not related to the child by blood, marriage or adoption)
If you can’t find the right people to notify, there are certain steps you must take to prove to the court that you tried.
Eventually, you’ll have a court hearing where the judge will order – or turn down your request for – guardianship.
The judge will order guardianship if it is necessary or appropriate. If one or both parents objects, the judge can still order guardianship if:
- Staying with the parents (or one of the parents) will be detrimental to the child
- The guardianship will be in the best interest of the child
Why People Get Guardianship of a Child in California
A guardian – someone other than a child’s parents who is given legal custody of the child – has all the same rights and responsibilities as a biological parent does. The courts sometimes give adults who are not the biological parents of a child guardianship when the child’s parents cannot care for them due to:
- Domestic violence
- Drug addiction
- Military duties abroad
- Serious financial issues
- Other circumstances that make biological parents unable or unfit to care for their children
Is Guardianship of a Child the Same as Adoption in California?
Guardianship is different from adoption. In guardianship, the biological parents maintain their parental rights – and in some cases, they’re awarded visitation with their child during the guardianship. Guardianship can also be supervised by the court, and it can be terminated when the parent’s circumstances improve.
California courts prefer reuniting a child with his or her parents and terminating guardianship if a parent can show that he or she is making progress and improvements.
In adoption, though, the parent’s parental rights are terminated permanently. The biological parent no longer has any right to visitation (or any relationship at all) with the child. Adoptive parents aren’t supervised by the courts.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About How to Get Guardianship of a Child in California?
If you want to get guardianship of a child in California, we may be able to help you. Just call us at 209-910-9865 to tell us what you’re going through. We’ll put together a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.